DeSantis’ Call to Fight Partisan Media Is On, Bill Would Make It Easier to Sue For Defamation

Two weeks after Governor Ron DeSantis called for increased protections against media defamation, republican lawmakers are taking up the mantle. Rep. Alex Andrade of Pensacola introduced a bill on Monday that would make it easier for the so-called “little guy” to sue major media companies for slander and defamation. The bill follows a roundtable on defamation hosted by DeSantis that included ‘Covington kid’ Nick Sandmann.

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The bill specifically targets the “federalization of defamation law” since 1964 and argues that defamation cases should be “purely a matter of state law.” Andrade argues in the bill that by tieing the hands of the state courts, the federal government has “foreclosed many meritorious defamation claims to the detriment 31 of citizens of all walks of life.”

“The United States Supreme Court should therefore reassess its post-1964 understanding of defamation law and… return to the states the authority to protect their residents from defamatory falsehoods.”

The bill also targets the abuse of anonymous sources in reporting by major media outlets to push certain narratives. Andrade argues that publishers of defamatory statements who rely on such sources “should know are inherently untrustworthy.”
The bill’s filing, known as HB 951, comes after calls from Governor Ron DeSantis to protect Floridians from dishonest and partisan media outlets.

“We’ve seen over the last generation legacy media outlets increasingly divorce themselves from the truth and instead try to elevate preferred narratives and partisan activism over reporting the facts,” DeSantis said at his Feb. 7 roundtable. “When the media attacks me, I have a platform to fight back. When they attack everyday citizens, these individuals don’t have the adequate recourses to fight back. In Florida, we want to stand up for the little guy against these massive media conglomerates.”

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The roundtable included several panelists impacted by media defamation, such as Nick Sandmann, a former Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky student. Sandmann was 16 when a video of him being confronted by a counterprotester at the annual March for Life went viral. The footage was replayed by several networks that falsely accused Sandmann of harassing the counterprotester.

“I didn’t even get the opportunity of a ‘care to comment,’” Sandmann said at the roundtable. “I would say it was the most difficult period of my life. They predetermined what the rest of my future was going to look like.”

The panel also included Dennis O’Connor, a former secretary of the Board of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. His group was a victim of defamation after reporter Katie Couric deceptively edited their interview to make them appear as though they were incapable of answering her questions.

During the panel, DeSantis also referenced the Russia collusion narrative pushed by mainstream news after Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential win. He referred to it as the “swan song” of media hoaxes.

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If Andrade’s media defamation bill reaches the governor’s desk and receives a signature, it will go into effect on July 1, 2023.

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